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Portland, O r e g o k 

Scriptor Press 


by Octavio Paz 

edited by Raymond Soulard, Jr. 
& Kassandra Kramer 

Number Thirty-three 


by Octavio Paz 

Burning Man Books is 

an imprint of 

Scriptor Press 

2442 NW Market Street #363 

Seattle, Washington 98107 

cenacle@mindspring. com 

This volume was composed 

in the AGaramond and Delphian fonts 

in PageMaker 7 on the 

Macintosh G4 computer 

This volume is in remembrance 

of a sweet evening 

in a Seattle bookshop . . . 


^crystal willow, a poplar of water, 
a tall fountain the wind arches over, 
a tree deep-rooted yet dancing still, 
a course of a river that turns, moves on, 
doubles back, and comes full circle, 
forever arriving: 

the calm course 
of the stars or an unhurried spring, 
water with eyes closed welling over 
with oracles all night long, 
a single presence in a surge of waves, 
wave after wave till it covers all, 
a reign of green that knows no decline, 
like the flash of wings unfolding in the sky, 

a path through the wilderness of days to come, 
and the gloomy splendor of misery like a bird 
whose song can turn a forest to stone, 
and the imminent joys on branches that vanish, 
the hours of light pecked away by the birds, 
and the omens that slip past the hand, 

a sudden presence like a burst of song, 

like the wind singing in a burning building, 

a glance that holds the world and all 

its seas and mountains dangling in the air, 

body of light filtered through an agate, 

thighs of light, belly of light, the bays, 

the solar rock, cloud-colored body, 

color of a brisk and leaping day, 

the hour sparkles and has a body, 

the world is visible through your body, 

transparent through your transparency, 


I travel my way through galleries of sound, 

I flow among echoing presences, 

I cross transparencies as though I were blind, 

a reflection erases me, I'm born in another, 

oh forest of pillars that are enchanted, 

through arches of light I travel into 

the corridors of a diaphanous fall, 

I travel your body, like the world, 

your belly is a plaza full of sun, 

your breasts two churches where blood 

performs its own, parallel rites, 

my glances cover you like ivy, 

you are a city the sea assaults, 

a stretch of ramparts split by the light 

in two halves the color of peaches, 

a domain of salt, rocks and birds, 

under the rule of oblivious noon, 

dressed in the color of my desires, 

you go your way naked as my thoughts, 

I travel your eyes, like the sea, 

tigers drink their dreams in those eyes, 

the hummingbird burns in those flames, 

I travel your forehead, like the moon, 

like the cloud that passes through your thoughts, 

I travel your belly, like your dreams, 

your skirt of corn ripples and sings, 
your skirt of crystal, your skirt of water, 
your lips, your hair, your glances rain 
all through the night, and all day long 
you open my chest with your fingers of water, 
you close my eyes with your mouth of water, 
you rain on my bones, a tree of liquid 
sending roots of water into my chest, 

I travel your length, like a river, 

I travel your body, like a forest, 

like a mountain path that ends at a cliff 

I travel along the edge of your thoughts, 

and my shadow falls from your white forehead, 

my shadow shatters, and I gather the pieces 

and go with no body, groping my way, 

the endless corridors of memory, the doors 

that open into an empty room 

where all the summers have come to rot, 

jewels of thirst burn at its depths, 

the face that vanishes upon recall, 

the hand that crumbles at my touch, 

the hair spun by a mob of spiders 

over the smiles of years ago, 

setting out from my forehead, I search, 

I search without finding, search through a moment, 

a face of storm and lightning-flashes 

racing through the trees of night, 

a face of rain in a darkened garden, 

relentless water that flows by my side, 

I search without finding, I write alone, 

there's no one here, and the day falls, 

the year falls, I fall with the moment, 

I fall to the depths, invisible path 

over mirrors repeating my shattered image, 

I walk through the days, the trampled moments, 

I walk through all the thoughts of my shadow, 

I walk through my shadow in search of a moment, 

6 • Octavio Paz 


I search for an instant alive as a bird, 

for the sun of five in the afternoon 

tempered by walls of porous stone: 

the hour ripened its cluster of grapes, 

and bursting, girls spilled out from the fruit, 

scattering in the cobblestone patios of the school, 

one was tall as autumn and walked 

through the arcades enveloped in light, 
and space encircled, dressed her in a skin 
even more golden and more transparent, 

tiger the color of light, brown deer 
on the outskirts of night, girl glimpsed 
leaning over green balconies of rain, 
adolescent incalculable face, 
I've forgotten your name, Melusina, 
Laura, Isabel, Persephone, Mary, 
your face is all the faces and none, 
you are all the hours and none, 
you're a tree and a cloud, all the birds 
and a single star, the edge of the sword 
and the executioner's bowl of blood, 
the ivy that creeps, envelops, uproots 
the soul, and severs it from itself, 

writing of fire on a piece of jade, 
crack in the stone, queen of snakes, 
column of mist, spring in the rock, 
lunar circus, aerie of eagles, 
anise-seed, thorn tiny and mortal, 
thorn that brings immortal pain, 
shepherdess of valleys under the sea, 
gatekeeper of the valley of the dead, 
liana that drops from the cliffs of vertigo, 
tangling vine, poisonous plant, 
resurrection flower, grape of life, 
lady of the flute and the lightning-flash, 
terrace of jasmine, salt in the wound, 
branch of roses for the man shot down, 
snow in August, gallows' moon, 
writing of the sea on basalt rock, 
writing of the wind on desert sand, 
the sun's last will, pomegranate, wheat, 

face of flames, face devoured, 

adolescent face plagued by phantom years 

and circular days that open out 

on the same patio, the same wall, 

the moment is aflame, and all the faces 

that appear in the flames are a single face, 

all of the names are a single name, 

all of the faces a single face, 

all of the centuries a single moment, 

and through all the centuries of the centuries 

a pair of eyes blocks the way to the future, 

8 • Octavio Paz 


there's nothing in front of me, only a moment 
salvaged from a dream tonight of coupled 
images dreamed, a moment chiseled 
from the dream, torn from the nothing 
of this night, lifted by hand, letter 
by letter, while time, outside, gallops 
away, and pounding at the doors of my soul 
is the world with its bloodthirsty schedules, 

only a moment while the cities, names, 

flavors and everything that is alive 

all crumble inside my blind skull, 

while the sorrows of night press on my thoughts, 

weigh down my spine, and my blood runs 

a litde slower, my teeth wobble, 

my eyes cloud over, and the days 

and years heap their empty horrors, 

while time folds its fan shut 

and behind its images there's nothing, 

the moment plunges into itself 

and floats surrounded by death, 

threatened by night's lugubrious yawn, 

threatened by death that is masked and alive, 

the moment plunges into itself, 

into itself like a closing fist, 

like a fruit that ripens toward its center 

and drinks from itself, spilling over, 
the moment, translucent, seals itself off 
and ripens inward, sends out roots, 
grows within me, taking me over, 
its feverish leafing drives me out, 
my thoughts are nothing more than its birds, 
its mercury runs through my veins, tree 
of the mind, fruit that tastes of time, 

oh life to live, life already lived, 

time that comes back in a swell of sea, 

time that recedes without turning its head, 

the past is not past, it is still passing by, 

flowing silently into the next vanishing moment: 

in an afternoon of stone and saltpeter, 

armed with invisible razors you write 

in red illegible script on my skin, 

and the wounds dress me like a suit of flames, 

I burn without end, I search for water, 

in your eyes there's no water, they're made of stone, 

and your breasts, your belly, your hips are stone, 

your mouth tastes of dust, your mouth tastes 

like poisoned time, your body tastes 

like a well that's been sealed, passage of mirrors 

where anxious eyes repeat, passage 

that always leads back to where it began, 

you take me, a blind man, led by the hand, 

through relentless galleries toward the center 

of the circle, and you rise like splendor 

hardened into an axe, like light that flays, 

engrossing as a gallows is to the doomed, 

flexible as whips and thin as a weapon 

that's twin to the moon, your sharpened words 

dig out my chest, depopulate me 

and leave me empty, one by one 

you extract my memories, I've forgotten my name, 

my friends grunt in a wallow with the pigs 

or rot in ravines eaten by the sun, 

10 • Octavio Paz 

Sunstone • 11 

there is nothing inside me but a large wound, 

a hollow place where no one goes, 

a windowless present, a thought that returns 

and repeats itself, reflects itself, 

and loses itself in its own transparency, 

a mind transfixed by an eye that watches 

it watching itself till it drowns itself 

in clarity: 

I saw your horrid scales, 
Melusina, shining green in the dawn, 
you slept twisting between the sheets, 
you woke shrieking like a bird, 
and you fell and fell, till white and broken, 
nothing remained of you but your scream, 
and I find myself at the end of time 
with bad eyes and a cough, rummaging through 
the old photos: 

there's no one, you're no one, 
a heap of ashes and worn-out broom, 
a rusted knife and a feather duster, 
a pelt that hangs from a pack of bones, 
a withered branch, a black hole, 
and there at the bottom the eyes of a girl 
drowned a thousand years ago, 

glances buried deep in a well, 

glances that have watched us since the beginning, 

the girl's glance of the aged mother 

who sees her grown son a young father, 

the mother's glance of the lonely girl 

who sees her father a young son, 

glances that watch us from the depths 

of life, and are the traps of death 

— or what if that fall into those eyes 

were the way back to true life? 

to fall, to go back, to dream myself, 

to be dreamed by other eyes that will come, 

another life, other clouds, 

to die yet another death! 

— this night is enough, this moment that never 

stops opening out, revealing to me 

where I was, who I was, what your name is, 

what my name is: 

was it I making plans 
for the summer — and for all summers — 
on Christopher Street, ten years ago, 
with Phyllis, who had two dimples in her cheeks 
where sparrows came to drink the light? 
on the Reforma did Carmen say to me, 
"the air's so crisp here, it's always October," 
or was she speaking to another I've forgotten, 
or did I invent it and no one said it? 
in Oaxaca was I walking through a night 
black-green and enormous as a tree, 
talking to myself like the crazy wind, 
and reaching my room — always a room — 
was it true the mirrors didn't know me? 
did we watch the dawn from the Hotel Vernet 
dancing with the chestnut trees — 
did you say "it's late," combing your hair, 
did I watch the stains on the wall and say nothing? 
did the two of us climb the tower together, 
did we watch evening fall on the reef? 
did we eat grapes in Bidart? in Perote 
did we buy gardenias? 

12 • Octavio Paz 



names, places, 
streets and streets, faces, plazas, 
streets, a park, stations, single 
rooms, stains on the wall, someone 
combing her hair, someone dressing, 
someone singing at my side, rooms, 
places, streets, names, rooms, 

Madrid, 1937, 

in the Plaza del Angel the women were sewing 

and singing along with their children, 

then: the sirens' wail, and the screaming, 

houses brought to their knees in the dust, 

towers cracked, facades spat out 

and the hurricane drone of the engines: 

the two took off their clothes and made love 

to protect our share of all that's eternal, 

to defend our ration of paradise and time, 

to touch our roots, to rescue ourselves, 

to rescue the inheritance stolen from us 

by the thieves of life centuries ago, 

the two took off their clothes and kissed 

because two bodies, naked and entwined, 

leap over time, they are invulnerable, 

nothing can touch them, they return to the source, 

there is no you, no I, no tomorrow, 

no yesterday, no names, the truth of two 

in a single body, a single soul, 

oh total being . . . 

rooms adrift 
in the foundering cities, rooms and streets, 
names like wounds, the room with windows 
looking out on other rooms 
with the same discolored wallpaper, 
where a man in shirtsleeves reads the news 
or a woman irons; the sunlit room 
whose only guest is the branches of a peach; 
and the other room, where it's always raining 
outside on the patio and the three boys 
who have rusted green; rooms that are ships 
that rock in a gulf of light; rooms 
that are submarines: where silence dissolves 
into green waves, and all that we touch 
phosphoresces; and the tunes of luxury, 
with their portraits nibbled, their rugs unraveling; 
and the traps, the cells, the enchanted grottoes, 
the birdcages and the numbered rooms, 
all are transformed, all take flight, 
every molding is a cloud, every door 
leads to the sea, the country, the open 
air, every table is set for a banquet; 
impenetrable as conches, times lay siege 
to them in vain, there is no more time, 
there are no walls: space, space, 
open your hand, gather these riches, 
pluck the fruit, eat of life, 
stretch out under the tree and drink! 

14 • Octavio Paz 



all is transformed, all is sacred, 

every room is the center of the world, 

it's still the first night, and the first day, 

the world is born when two people kiss, 

a drop of light from transparent juices, 

the room cracks half-open like a fruit 

or explodes in silence like a star, 

and the laws chewed away by the rats, 

the iron bars of the banks and jails, 

the paper bars, the barbed wire, 

the rubber stamps, the pricks and goads, 

the droning one-note sermon on war, 

the mellifluous scorpion in a cap and gown, 

the top-hatted tiger, chairman of the board 

of the Red Cross and the Vegetarian Society, 

the schoolmaster donkey, the crocodile cast 

in the role of savior, father of the people, 

the Boss, the shark, the architect of the future, 

the uniformed pig, the favorite son 

of the Church who washes his blackened dentures 

in holy water and takes classes in civics 

and conversational English, the invisible walls, 

the rotten masks that divide one man 

from another, one man from himself, 

they crumble 
for one enormous moment and we glimpse 
the unity that we lost, the desolation 
of being man, and all its glories, 
sharing bread and sun and death, 
the forgotten astonishment of being alive; 

to love is to batde, if two kiss 

the world changes, desires take flesh, 

thoughts take flesh, wings sprout 

on the backs of the slave, the world is real 

and tangible, wine is wine, bread 

regains its savor, water is water, 

to love is to battle, to open doors, 

to cease to be a ghost with a number 

forever in chains, forever condemned 

by a faceless master; 

the world changes 
if two look at each other and see, 
to love is to undress our names: 
"let me be your whore" said Heloise, 
but he chose to submit to the law 
and made her his wife, and they rewarded him 
with castration; 

better the crime, 
the suicides of lovers, the incest committed 
by brother and sister like two mirrors 
in love with their likeness, better to eat 
the poisoned bread, adultery on a bed 
of ashes, ferocious love, the poisonous 
vines of delirium, the sodomite who wears 
a gob of spit for a rose in his lapel, 
better to be stoned in the plaza than to turn 
the mill that squeezes out the juice of life, 
the turns eternity into empty hours, 
minutes into prisons, and time into 
copper coins and abstract shit; 

16 • Octavio Paz 



better chastity, the invisible flower 

that rocks atop the stalks of silence, 

the difficult diamond of the holy saints 

that filters desires, satiates time, 

the marriage of quietude and motion, 

solitude sings within its corolla, 

every hour is a petal of crystal, 

the world strips off its masks, 

and at its heart, a transparent shimmer 

that we call God, nameless being 

who studies himself in the void, faceless 

being emerged from himself, sun 

of suns, plentitude of presences and names; 

I follow my raving, rooms, streets, 
I grope my way through corridors of time, 
I climb and descend its stairs, I touch 
its walls and do not move, I go back 
to where I began, I search for your face, 
I walk through the streets of myself 
under an ageless sun, and by my side 
you walk like a tree, you walk like a river, 
and talk to me like the course of a river, 
you grow like wheat between my hands, 
you throb like a squirrel between my hands, 
you fly like a thousand birds, and your laugh 
is like the spray of the sea, your head 
is a star between my hands, the world 
grows green again when you smile, 
eating an orange, 

the world changes 
if two, dizzy and entwined, fall 
on the grass: the sky comes down, trees 
rise, space becomes nothing but light 
and silence, open space for the eagle 
of the eye, the white tribe of clouds 
goes by, and the body weighs anchor, 
the soul sets sail, and we lose 
our names and float adrift in the blue 
and green, total time where nothing 
happens but its own, easy crossing, 

nothing happens, you're quiet, you blink, 

(silence: just now an angel crossed, 

huge as the life of a hundred suns), 

is nothing happening, only a blink? 

— and the banquet, the exile, the first crime, 

the jawbone of the ass, the opaque thud 

and the starded glance of the dead falling 

on an ash-strewn plain, Agamemnon's 

great bellow, the screams of Cassandra, 

over and over, louder than the sea, 

Socrates in chains (the sun rises, 

to die is to wake: "Crito, a cock 

for Aesculapius, I am cured of life"), 

the jackal discoursing in the ruins of Nineveh, 

the shade that appeared to Brutus on the eve 

of the batde, Moctezuma insomniac 

on his bed of thorns, the ride in the carriage 

toward death — the interminable ride, 

18 • Octavio Paz 



counted minute by minute by Robespierre, 

his broken jaw between his hands, 

Churruca on his cask like a scarlet throne, 

the numbered steps of Lincoln as he left 

for the theater, Trotsky's death-ratde 

and his howl like a boar, Madero's gaze 

that no one returned: why are they killing me?, 

and the curses, the sighs, the silence 

of the criminal, the saint, the poor devil, 

graveyards of anecdotes and phrases scratched up 

by rhetorical dogs, and the shouts of victory, 

the raving, the dark sound we make 

when dying and that pulsebeat of life 

as it's born, and the sound of bones being crushed 

in the fray and the foaming mouth of the prophet 

and his scream and the scream of the hangman 

and the scream of the victim . . . 

eyes are flames, 
what they see is flames, the ear a flame 
and sounds a flame, lips are coals, 
the tongue is a poker, touch and the touched, 
thoughts and the thought-of, he who thinks 
is flame, all is burning, the universe 

is flame, the nothing is burning, the nothing 
that is only a thought in flames, and nothing 
in the end but smoke: there is no victim, 
there is no hangman . . . 

and the cry on Friday 
afternoon?, and the silence covered in signs, 
the silence that speaks without ever thinking, 
does it say nothing? are cries nothing? 
does nothing happen as time passes by? 

— nothing happens, only a blink 
of the sun, nothing, barely a motion, 
there is no redemption, time can never 
turn back, the dead are forever 
fixed in death and cannot die 
another death, they are untouchable, 
frozen in a gesture, and from their solitude, 
from their death, they watch us, 
helpless, without ever watching, 
their death is now a statue of their life, 
an eternal being eternally nothing, 
every minute is eternally nothing, 
a ghosdy king rules over your heartbeat 
and your final expression, a hard mask 
is formed over your changing face: 
the monument that we are to a life, 
unlived and alien, barely ours, 

— when was life ever truly ours? 

when are we ever what we are? 

we are ill-reputed, nothing more 

than vertigo and emptiness, a frown in the mirror, 

horror and vomit, life is never 

truly ours, it always belongs to the others, 

life is no one's, we all are life — 

bread of the sun for the others, 

the others that we all are — 

when I am another, my acts 

are more mine when they are the acts 

of others, in order to be I must be another, 

20 • Octavio Paz 

Sunstone • 21 

leave myself, search for myself 

in the others, the others that don't exist 

if I don't exist, the others that give me 

total existence, I am not, 

there is no I, we are always us, 

life is other, always there, 

further off, beyond you and 

beyond me, always on the horizon, 

life which unlives us and makes us strangers, 

that invents our face and wears it away, 

hunger for being, oh death, our bread, 

Mary, Persephone, Heloise, show me 

your face that I may see at last 

my true face, that of another, 

my face forever the face of us all, 

face of the tree and the baker of bread, 

face of the driver and the cloud and the sailor, 

face of the sun and face of the stream, 

face of Peter and Paul, face 

of this crowd of hermits, wake me up, 

I've already been born: 

life and death 
make a pact within you, lady of night, 
tower of clarity, queen of dawn, 
lunar virgin, mother of mother sea, 
body of the world, house of death, 
I've been falling endlessly since my birth, 
I fall in myself without touching bottom, 
gather me in your eyes, collect 
my scattered dust and reconcile my ashes, 
bind these unjointed bones, blow over 
my being, bury me deep in your earth, 
and let your silence bring peace to thought 
that rages against itself: 

your hand, lady of seeds that are days, 
the day is immortal, it rises and grows, 
it has just been born, its birth never ends, 
each day is a birth, each dawn is a birth 
and I am dawning, we are all dawning, 
the sun dawns with the face of the sun, 
John dawns with John's face, 
the face of John that is everyone's face, 

door of being, dawn and wake me, 

allow me to see the face of this day, 

allow me to see the face of this night, 

all communicates, all is transformed, 

arch of blood, bridge of the pulse, 

take me to the other side of this night, 

where I am you, we are us, 

the kingdom where pronouns are intertwined, 

door of being: open your being 

and wake, learn to be, form 

your face, develop your features, have 

a face I can see to see my face, 

to see life until its death, a face 

of the sea, bread, rocks and a fountain, 

source where all our faces dissolve 

in the nameless face, the faceless being, 

the unspeakable presences of presences . . . 

22 • Octavio Paz 

Sunstone • 23 

I want to go on, to go further, and cannot: 

as each moment was dropping into another 

I dreamt the dreams of dreamless stones, 

and there at the end of the years like stones 

I heard my blood, singing in its prison, 

and the sea sang with a murmur of light, 

one by one the walls gave way, 

all of the doors were broken down, 

and the sun came bursting through my forehead, 

it tore apart my closed lids, 

cut loose my being from its wrappers, 

and pulled me out of myself to wake me 

from this animal sleep and its centuries of stone, 

and the sun's magic of mirrors revived 

a crystal willow, a poplar of water, 

a tall fountain the wind arches over, 

a tree deep-rooted yet dancing still, 

a course of a river that turns, moves on, 

doubles back, and comes full circle, 

forever arriving: 

24 • Octavio Paz